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Local nonprofits discuss challenges, strategy in lead-up to WyoGives fundraiser

Gillette College Main Building. H/t Gillette College.

H/t Gillette College.

GILLETTE, Wyo. — In just over a month, nonprofit organizations across the state will participate in a huge fundraising push during the annual WyoGives initiative.

A 24-hour online fundraising event organized by the Wyoming Nonprofit Network, the fifth annual WyoGives will be on July 10, which is also Wyoming Statehood Day. Organizations will be able to take part in a $1 million incentive pool from the Hughes Charitable Foundation as well as other matching pools and direct donations.

Local organizations met with Gillette media and shared their goals for the fundraiser earlier this week in a Media Day event. Organizers from the WNN also helped nonprofit representatives film promotional content to be used during the fundraiser in between the press conference and a planning session.

Along with the work that comes with a big fundraising push, many nonprofits are hard-pressed for help in the form of volunteers. Although Wyoming is second only to Utah in recent AmeriCorps data on rates of formal volunteering across the country, organizers say finding reliable volunteers after the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult.

The two go hand-in-hand, said Quinn Goldhammer, executive director of the AVA Community Arts Center in Gillette.

“The burden is kind of on us to make the public aware of opportunities for volunteerism and the things we need support on,” she said, adding that those efforts have correlated to higher volunteer engagement. WyoGives presents groups with a chance to get their name out in the community while raising money, Goldhammer said.

“Of course the funding is paramount for all of us — the money we raise for direct services — but the statewide awareness that comes with WyoGives is fantastic.”

In addition to a changing volunteer landscape, shifting political winds in recent years have left some organizations to fill new monetary gaps previously covered by government funds.

Julie Price Carroll, executive director of Gillette Reproductive Health, said that having been denied county funds for the past several years left them working double time on fundraising. County funding, which had previously been granted consistently, was denied due to false claims from county commissioners of performing abortions or giving referrals for them, she said.

“So really, it’s not us that it hurts,” Price Carroll said. “It’s really the working women in Wyoming that it hurts.”

Gillette Reproductive Health is aiming to raise $25,000 to help fund its mission of helping low-income women and women without insurance access their annual health exams.

Discussion among nonprofit leaders came to focus on the issues that could soon be impacting the county at large.

Mikel Scott, executive director of the Council of Community Services, pointed out that nonprofits were vital to providing services to those in need now more than ever as potential economic disruptions in the oil and gas industry loom, with new BLM coal rules set to go into effect in weeks. The rule would cease new federal coal leases in the Powder River Basin but allow existing leases to continue, estimating production rates will stay the same through 2041.

Any downturn in those industries would have a direct impact on those who work in other industries such as retail and food service and rely on the economic activity of coal and oil workers, Scott said, adding that this could lead to an increase in the amount of people who may come to rely on their assistance.

As elections are also around the corner in Wyoming, Jessica Seders, executive director of Gillette Main Street, pointed out a financial disconnect between candidates and the realities of running a nonprofit.

“When we talk about our elected officials and you see their platform, are they supporting the community? When you see a billboard that says ‘no new taxes,’ I think that is extremely narrow-minded and ignorant,” Seders said. “Our community needs taxes, and sometimes these taxes are the benefit for the women sitting around this table.”

For more information on WyoGives or to sponsor local organizations for the initiative, check out its website.